Student government committee pushes to set minimum wage for student workers higher than state requirement

The Equity and Inclusion committee of Student Government is undertaking a campaign to raise the minimum wage on campus. The proposal is to set the minimum wage of students employed by the college to $8 an hour, although members of the committee have discussed pushing for as high as $10 an hour.

Director of the Equity and Inclusion Committee Fraynette Familia ‘20 described the project as “the biggest that they have worked on.” The current Pennsylvania minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal.

Familia explained that, after identifying an issue with the amount of money student workers were making from their on-campus jobs, “[she and fellow committee member Blossom Jiang ’19] met with so many administrators who seemed to think [they] were crazy, and that essentially sparked the birth of the proposal.”

Inspired by the fact that others did not seem to realize the magnitude of the problem at hand, Familia and Jiang “just kept pushing the needle on the issue when [they] hit roadblocks,” and are now receiving very good feedback on their project.

Student government president Connor Burwell ’19 said he is impressed with the efforts of the group, noting that “[Familia] and her committee chairs really embody what it means to be peer advocates.”

“They’ve identified equity concerns in the community and are pushing for practical solutions to those problems,” he said.

While the minimum wage program specifically aims to help student workers, the committee’s efforts span a variety of different underrepresented groups on campus. The overarching goal, as chair of the committee Eduardo Rodriguez-Gomez ‘22 put it, is “ensuring that the college is aware of the issues these students come across and working to make Lafayette a more inclusive environment for everyone.”

Rodriguez-Gomez also explained that the Equity and Inclusion committee is particularly important because of its ability to broaden the perspectives in making decisions for the school.

“In a college with our demographics, it can be hard to see things from different perspectives,” he said. “This committee tries to take those less-common perspectives into consideration to make sure everyone’s needs are included.”

Familia agreed, noting that the “typical campus culture” at Lafayette is often one that many minority students do not conform to or feel represented in.

“The Equity and Inclusion Committee [at Lafayette] focuses on supporting historically underserved groups and ensuring that they are given equitable opportunities and their interests are appropriately integrated into student life,” she explained.

“They deserve to have their interests become part of the ‘normal,’” Familia she added, “to have their cultures and interests not seem ‘ethnic,’ ‘different’ or ‘eccentric,’ which further isolates them, but to bring them to the table so that we can all enjoy Lafayette together.”

The committee has taken on a variety of other projects in addition to the minimum wage effort throughout the year so far. They provided Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) workshops to help students fill out the application, in partnership with the Financial Aid Office. They also coordinated with facilities to make campus services more available for students staying on campus during school breaks.

Chair of the committee Anastasiia Shakhurina ‘22 said she is “very excited about the future of the committee,” and believes that the group “will do amazing things.”

Rodriguez-Gomez said he hopes that the committee will continue to grow and take on “tasks to make Lafayette a more mindful and inclusive place.”

Familia said she hopes that Lafayette students will begin to ask themselves, “How can I make it so that more people can benefit from my projects? Is what I am doing welcoming?”

If students find that what they are doing is not welcoming, Familia added, then “we are dramatically overstating Lafayette’s true commitment to diversity, equality, equity and inclusion.”

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